Yesterday I got into an argument on Twitter I really should have stayed out of. Actually, that’s most arguments I have on Twitter, but this one was especially ill-advised because it stemmed from some disparaging remarks I made about the general attitude I’ve seen from the people threatened by Hurricane Sandy. You can go and read the tweet if you want; I haven’t deleted it, even though further consideration tells me it might not have been in the best of taste.
Here’s the thing though: it’s not just this storm. It’s every storm. Every storm is going to be a disaster. Every time a hurricane comes through the message is some subtle variant of “ARRGH, ITS GOING TO BE TERRIBLE, EVERYONE GO BUY A YEAR’S WORTH OF WATER, WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE, ARRGH!”
For this I partly blame Hurricane Katrina. That storm really was a disaster. Thousands of people died, millions more were displaced from a city that lay in ruin for years afterward. And there seems to be a sense that people —particularly people in the media, but many average folks too— are holding their breath almost hoping that whatever storm is forming out in the Atlantic will be just as bad. And they’re disappointed when time and time again, it isn’t.
But that’s not what this post is really about. Because what bugs me, what really sticks in my craw about how people react to these storms is the fact that people react to these storms.
The last little puff of wind that blew off the gulf in my town saw the shelves in the sporting goods section where I work stripped completely bare of flashlights. And it really got me to thinking: what kind of person doesn’t own a flashlight? How is it you’ve gotten to this point in human adulthood without having ever needed a battery operated light source? Did you never go camping? Did the lights never go out at your house? Has your life up till this point really been so mind-numbingly convenient that there has never been a time when you flicked the light switch and nothing happened?
And this is really what I wanted to say: if you’re going out to buy supplies after the storm has formed, you are not prepared. Preparedness happens in advance. Preparedness is recognizing that you live in a hurricane-prone area and having stuff on hand to deal with that possibility. Preparedness is having a plan. Preparedness is owning a flashlight.
Of course you might not live in an area threatened by hurricanes, but the same basic advice still applies. It’s my opinion that everyone should have the supplies on hand at all times to survive for at least a few days without power.
One of the best ways to take inventory of your ability to make it through one of these events is to go camping every so often (and I mean in a tent. RVing and camping are not the same thing.) That way you find out the batteries in your flashlight (which you have because you are a normal person) have turned into corrosive gunk in a non-emergency situation. You’ll have figured out how to cook your food without power ahead of time (Propane camp stoves are nice, but if you’re on a budget like me, pick up a Sterno stove. They’re less powerful, but also much less expensive.)
Of course, you’ll need something to cook on your stove, which is why it’s a good idea to have a good supply of canned goods in your pantry that you periodically use and replace so as to prevent spoiling.
This advice? None of it is new. It did not come to me in a flash of mad insight in the wee hours of the morning. I am not passing down some arcane mystical wisdom that none of you have heard before. And yet every single storm that passes sees the exact same pattern of panicked buying of supplies.
I’m certain this one single blog post won’t stem that tide, but maybe it will spark you to think more about your own level of preparation. The very nature of preparation means it likely won’t be something that will benefit you in the near future, but if you have it in your mind what kinds of emergencies you might face and have a plan and supplies to deal with those emergencies when the storm, earthquake, flood, or solar flare hits you won’t be stuck with the rest of the lemmings cramming the aisles of Walmart somehow surprised by the fact that you weren’t the only one who didn’t stock up on canned goods.
You’ll have a plan. You’ll be prepared. You will own a flashlight.